Towards a cashless society?

Asian consumers are leading the way in digital living, turning their smartphones into an international travel companion.

Due to the nature of technological development in the APAC region, many Asian consumers were first connected to the internet via their smartphones, and their pocket-sized devices are now relied upon for everything from communications and entertainment to banking, gifting, shopping and research.

Living digital

With Asian consumers so confident and connected to their mobile devices, it’s no wonder they lead the world in using smartphones for shopping. According to Nielsen, Asia-Pacific has the highest rates of mobile purchasing, with 50% of online consumers in China, 49% in India, 47% in South Korea and 46% of those in Vietnam reporting that they purchased a product or service via their mobile device in the past six months. These nationalities also lead the way with mobile app purchases - 50% of people in China, 48% in South Korea, 47% in India and 43% in Vietnam - have made purchases using an app.

Shop as you go

One of the key areas of development in Asia is the growth of digital payments, which far exceeds usage of the technology in other parts of the world. China, in particular, has an advanced and competitive market for mobile payments, with leaders WeChat Pay and AliPay accounting for over 90% of China’s mobile wallet market, worth a reported USD5.5 trillion a year. These third-party platforms are fast replacing cash and credit cards in the country.

China clearly leads the way in mobile payments, the technology is becoming more widespread across the region, with plans to roll out the facility to Japanese and Malaysian consumers next. New payment methods are a hot topic across Asia Pacific, with the subject topping 83% of social media conversations in APAC nations, according to Mastercard research.

Going global

While digital wallets rule at home, many Asian consumers are unable to use their preferred services when travelling abroad. According to research by Kapronasia and CANCAN, 67% of Chinese consumers have used mobile payments for some overseas transactions, but only for 3% to 30% of their transactions. 21% said they haven’t used WeChat Pay or AliPay abroad because they didn’t know they could. Few key shopping destinations offer the service, but the increasing prevalence of these new payment facilities is making spending overseas easier for Globe Shoppers.

Global Blue has recently launched a number of innovations to better serve Chinese Globe Shoppers. They can now choose to receive their VAT refund directly into their Alipay digital wallet at airports and stores across Europe. In January, refunds via WeChat Pay were also introduced at Madrid airport, with plans to grow this offering in additional airports and stores throughout 2018.

Where can tech go next?

For the tech-savvy Asian consumer, digital products and services are essential for the future. New technologies suggest exciting possibilities for Globe Shoppers in Asia, and beyond. Smart services will be key, like Troika, the Chinese-speaking robot helping tourists at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport. Cashier-less stores like BingoBox could meet the convenience needs of the digital consumer: customers can enter the store and pay for goods using their WeChat accounts.

APAC customers are also enthusiastic about future technologies that boost security. A Mastercard survey found that 45% of consumers in the region are interested in biometric authentication to offer advanced security, and as an alternative to passwords and PIN numbers.

How can European stores satisfy these digital natives?

While some of these innovations may seem futuristic, digital development is moving at a rapid pace in the region, and digital consumers are demanding smart, seamless services wherever they go.

Offering digital payment solutions, communicating with consumers via digital platforms and integrating technology into the in-store experience are just some of the ways retailers need to keep up with this ever-evolving trend.